Cowboy poetry has roots that go back to the trail driving era, which started in the early 1800’s. Ever since, cowboys have been writing, rhyming and entertaining with songs and poems about the old west.
The Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association, a non-profit society, commenced in 1987, and was incorporated in 1988 to preserve the history and lifestyle of the cowboy and the rural way of life through both the written word and oral presentation. The Association fosters the development of new writers and encourages participation in Cowboy Poetry events from all age groups.
At the beginning (in the fall of 1987), a small group of ranchers from southern Alberta, and their local vet sat around a kitchen table to plan the first annual Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Pincher Creek. The Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association sprang from this meeting and was registered in 1988, and planning for the first Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Pincher Creek on the 3rd weekend of June, 1988 commenced. There was a little apprehension about how things would turn out. Would anyone show up? Could we put together a quality entertainment event? Would the wind blow over 50 mph?
Well, the wind didn’t blow and the event was quite a success due to the great participation by poets, pickers, singers, story tellers and artists from throughout Western Canada and Montana.
For several years the Pincher Creek Gathering was jointly organized by the Alberta Cowboy Poetry Association and the Pincher Creek Agricultural Society. In 1995 the Pincher Creek Agricultural Society took over organizing the entire Pincher Creek Gathering, as the ACPA felt this would free their association to return to its original mandate of “supporting and promoting poets and pickers and the western way of life”, rather than focusing on the huge task of organizing a gathering.
The popularity of this event and many other such Gatherings in Alberta, BC, Saskatchewan and Manitoba has grown steadily since 1988. Since the beginning with Pincher Creek many gatherings have evolved and become successful such as Maple Creek, Stony Plain, Caroline, Yeoford/Winfield, Willow Creek, Sundre, Ponoka, Bashaw, Rimby, Taber and Coaldale to name a few. Our ACPA members have played a large part in the success of these events. They have provided advice on how to put on a gathering and many have performed many times at these events.
To encourage and promote their membership in performing cowboy poetry and music, in 2003 the ACPA undertook to establish the Trail’s End Gathering in the fall. The performers for this event must be current members. This event has become very popular. It was held in Crossfield from 2003-2005, at the Cochrane RancheHouse from 2006-2009, in High River since September, 2010.
From its humble beginnings, membership in the ACPA grew to over 200 members located in all the western provinces and several states south of the border. Cowboy poets, singers and musicians of all ages and fans of this genre are encouraged to join.
The ACPA supports a strong history of “keeping it cowboy”, with performers appearing in western dress and using material that is appropriate to rural themes and values in a family friendly environment.
Today, cowboy poets, and the traditional Western musicians and singers that complement them, continue the wonderful old oral tradition that helps preserve and promote the true heritage of ranching, farming and rodeo.
Today our ACPA goals are an echo from the beginning and include:
- Promoting the old tradition of writing and reciting poetry about life on the ranch and farm.
- Providing a forum for working cowboys and ranch people to share cowboy poetry and music.
- Helping to preserve a unique folk culture of the Canadian West.
- Fostering an understanding of, and an appreciation for, the western way of life.